With all the recent news and rumors about next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix, many are wondering if we'll actually get the film we want. As additional characters like Mystique and Quicksilver, along with possible new locales like Madripoor are being added to the film, will elements of the original saga suffer? Fans will remember X-Men: The Last Stand followed a similar path –– and that didn't go well.
The film took a lot of liberties and, as a result, the narrative lost touch with its roots. One of the most overlooked, yet clear examples of this was the film's interpretation of the psychic battle between Jean and Professor Xavier.
In the comic books, the battle between the world's two most powerful mutants is a high-stakes, emotional experience, both for them and the other X-Men. Will Simon Kinberg's new Dark Phoenix interpretation give us the real psi-war we deserve? It is possible, and we can thank X-Men: Apocalypse for paving the way.
To appreciate the intensity of the battle between Jean and Professor Xavier, you have to understand the depth of their relationship. While the tale of Dark Phoenix is undoubtedly one of sorrow for Scott and Jean, it is the relationship between Jean and her mentor that brought true gravity and poignancy to her fall from grace. Apocalypse excellently illustrated the closeness and trust between Jean and Xavier, setting up the impending power struggle between the two to be more emotional and palatable than in X3.
Jean met Xavier as a child when her mutant powers first manifested. Glimpsing her immense power and her inability to control it, Xavier put psychic blocks in Jean’s mind, stunting her abilities until she would be able to control them. This lasted until Jean reached adulthood and destroyed the blocks while exerting her power to save the X-Men from death. Xavier attempted to put the barriers back in place, but the Phoenix-possessed Jean fought back and a psychic duel for the ages began.
In loosely keeping with the source material, X3 attempted to bring the duel to life. As Jean struggled between with the Phoenix's increasingly destructive impulses, Xavier tried to reason with her and, presumably, restore the psychic blocks. When confronted about Scott's murder, the Phoenix completely took over, and the psychic battle for control began. The Phoenix gained the upper hand, telekinetically overwhelming Xavier and, without saying a word, killed him.
For a scene that saw such powerful mutants –– and two people who consider each other family –– confronting each other, it lacked the depth, emotion and creativity the original story contained. From a theatrical perspective, it was a high-energy scene, but it was a shell of the experience fans were owed. A psychic battle is just that: physic. While Jean and Xavier were battling on the astral plane, viewers only saw what appeared to be a glorified starring contest. We should have been brought into the mental battle field.
While the X3 creative team opted not to go in a more involved direction with the psi-war scene, Apocalypse has already set us up to see the battle we are owed in the next film. For fans who already knew the extent of Apocalypse's power, it was clear early on that only Jean could stop him. As Xavier was beaten down during his psychic battle with Apocalypse, he brought Jean into the ring, and she did not hold back.
When Jean entered the astral plane and embraced the power of her mutant abilities, she literally shattered Apocalypse. The scene perfectly synced the mental and physical battle the two engaged in, introducing a more dynamic, interesting and creative way to illustrate psychic activity unlike anything the other films have shown. It also shows us that Jean and Xavier have the ability to go head to head in the same manner during the seventh #XMen film. Hopefully, this and other core elements of the Dark Phoenix Saga will not only be preserved, but depicted in a way worthy of story's comic book origins.
What do you hope to see in the Dark Phoenix story?